Replicating Glory III: The Material Details, Research Time, 04/08/2017

How to revolutionize a society so densely layered with different classes, business and civil relationships, political parties, cultural communities, trade unions and associations.

You know what civil society is? Redundancy in the social networks of an entire country. It does for societies what redundancy structures do in electrical power grids and different server hubs of the internet.

Let’s contrast Czarist Russia during the First World War. There was only one way to inculcate a sense of loyalty to the Czarist state – fealty to the class hierarchy of the Russian aristocracy. Break the people’s faith in that, and you’ve got a nationwide civil uprising.

The progressive politics of mid-20th century Western liberalism
transformed Canada from a polite northern jewel in the crown of the
British Empire, into a culturally more independent country. The
cultural currents led into Canadian state politics by Lester Pearson
(liberal internationalism), Pierre Trudeau (personal liberty), and
Tommy Douglas (brotherhood) literally built the new national
ideology of the Canadian people.
Now look at a society like Canada today. We’re a democracy with regular elections and media highly critical of government. And we have plenty of media criticizing our oligarchical class. Reporting on corporate crime is a popular demographic.

We’re also highly multicultural and permit people to speak whatever language they want in their private lives, and worship freely as long as nobody gets hurt. There are many places in the world where this never happens.

My country is also built on terrible injustices, like the slow, creeping, institutional genocide of Indigenous people. That’s what the Canadian state was designed to do in 1867.

The liberal reforms of the Pearson-Trudeau-Douglas era of Canadian leadership made some major progress on the foundations of a plural society. My generation is on the verge of a similar step, overturning the popular racism against Indigenous Canadians. Like the 1964-84 social revolutions, Indigenous liberation will probably take at least that long.

We’re in year five, if you’re counting.

But look at what this happy, diverse, plural, democratic society has – so many ways to become loyal to the Canadian state. As Antonio Gramsci would say, so many ways I’m loyal to a capitalist power structure.

I just described the exact way I’m loyal to the Canadian state, or at least the institution of Canada. I’m not about to overthrow the state of Canada and its entire economic system, like Lenin in 1917. I’m ethically invested in Canada.

Canada today is facing another revolutionary pressure, just as the
country did in the 1960s. That's the movement for Indigenous
liberation and reparations. It will mean tearing down the last,
most brutal and cruel institutions of the British Empire in Canada:
the reserve system and Indigenous race laws. We'll need leaders of
the same mettle as Douglas, Pearson, and Trudeau Sr. Will Justin
Trudeau have the same fortitude?
I doubt it. Let me put it to you this way. I think the best modern
philosopher to use in understanding Justin Trudeau is Jean
Beaudrillard. Justin Trudeau: the world's first hyperreal PM.
That’s what I mean about redundancy. There are so many different ways to be loyal to Canada that someone like me can exist peacefully with someone like the arch-nationalist, army-worshipping, neo-Loyalist Stephen Harper. He didn’t have to kill me to take power. I’m just in the NDP.

Back in Russia in 1917, the only way you could ethically invest yourself in Czarist Russia was to be loyal to the Czar and subservient to the landed aristocracy. One quick strike in a weak moment and the whole structure could fall to pieces.

If one path to ethical investment in multicultural democratic Canada falls apart, there are still plenty of other routes for the country to earn people’s loyalty. That’s why you need a ‘war of position’ in Gramsci’s terminology.

You need to be a strategist, exploring and analyzing each of these routes of loyalty to Canada. You have to look at each path to a person’s ethical investment in the country and the way things are (or could be with tweaks). Their structure, and their dynamics – the ways in which those loyalties can change but remain strong.

An activist and an ethnographer. A philosopher’s critical eye on ideology with an expert communicator’s power to make people of all stripes understand it. A social scientist who’s also an ambitious experimenter in society. That’s what you have to be to win the ‘war of position.’

That’s a bit of a tall order for a resumé. I think I can understand why this has not been very successful. That’s why Gramsci seems like such a pessimist, I guess.

1 comment:

  1. I am curious why you never talk about John Ralston Saul, especially in the context of establishing a philosophical sense of Canadian identity.